Procurement – How to Flowchart a Procurement Process

A procurement process is a combination of tasks and decisions that are needed in order to carry out a procurement activity. An example of a process is “paying a supplier”. A flowchart is a diagrammatic representation of the tasks and decisions that are needed to carry out the process. Once you have drawn the flowchart you can start to look for ways to improve it.

There are software tools available for drawing flowcharts but if you do not want to go to any expense you can use a pencil and paper. Often flowcharts are drawn on large pieces of brown paper which are then put on the walls of a room so that you can “walk” others through the process and get their views on how it all works.

Whichever way you decide to draw your process (manually or with software) there are a number of steps you need to go through.

1. Decide what symbols you are going to use. Typically, you use a box with rounded corners to denote the start and end of a process; a rectangle for tasks; and a diamond shape for a decision that needs to be made. You write inside the symbol a brief description of what it represents.

2. Start by drawing a box with rounded corners and write inside “start”.

3. Now ask yourself what is the first task. Draw a rectangle and write a brief description of the task inside it.

4. If the next step in the process is another task, draw another rectangle and write inside what that task is. Now draw an arrow from the previous task to this task.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all of the tasks are completed.

6. If a decision needs to be made after a task is ended but before the next task starts, draw a diamond shape and write inside it the decision that needs to be made or the question that needs to be answered. Typically, there are two possible results of this decision or question. You represent this by drawing one arrow from the side of the triangle to the next task that occurs if that decision or answer is the result. Otherwise, draw an arrow from the bottom of the triangle to the next task. Usually, you write the answers or the decisions along the side of each arrow.

7. Once you have drawn all of the tasks and decisions or questions, draw another box with rounded corners and write inside “end”.

8. To check that you have everything in the process, ask someone else who is familiar with the process to check it and amend as necessary.

9. You can now review the process, looking for tasks that might be duplicated and so eliminated or parts of the process that could be improved.